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The Film's Design
When it came to NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM's visual design, Shawn Levy knew he faced a task of an out-sized scale. As he puts it: "When you have all of history to draw from, that's a pretty huge palette!” He began by assembling a crack team of artists led by Academy Award winning production designer Claude Paré and sought-after costume designer Renée April.

Their mission was nothing less than creating the interior of a world-class museum -- from scratch. While the film would use New York's globally recognizable Natural History Museum for exteriors, there was no way the production could unleash the story's mayhem within its halls lined with precious artifacts and priceless antiques. As Robin Williams notes: You don't want to hear, you've just knocked over a 14th century divan that was Louis the Fourteenth's!” So, the decision was made to create an unprecedented set of wonders on a giant soundstage at the appropriately named Mammoth Studios in Vancouver – one that would replicate a kind of "greatest hits” of the most riveting natural history exhibits in existence.

The job of forging Shawn Levy's vision for the innards of the museum fell in large part to Claude Paré, who previously won an Oscar for the lavish, historical art design of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator. He knew this project would be a dizzying change of pace –yet he couldn't help but be excited by the gigantic challenge of it. "Usually a designer focuses on one or two periods, but with NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, there was a chance to touch on so many different kinds of design, from ancient Egyptian temples to Western Cowboy scenes, and to have fun with each of them,” says Paré.

Like an inspired curator, Paré put no limits on how far he could take things. "We did match the big arched windows at the museum in New York for continuity from exterior to interior,” Paré explains, "but other than that, from the moment you enter the revolving doors, you're entirely in the environment we created for the film -- apart from the Ocean Life Hall, which is a digital composite of an exhibit at the New York Natural History Museum.”

For several weeks on end, the film's set designers became temporary museum designers, creating individual exhibits that tell unique stories -- from Inuit fisherman surviving on the ice shelf to Neanderthals in their grotto attempting to make fire. "Each one of these exhibits had to be individually illustrated, planned, built and set within their own niche,” explains Paré. "At one point we had ten designers all working just on the plans for the various museum exhibits. The goal was to make each one completely believable so we paid extreme attention to detail.”

To keep up, the film's construction shop ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, churning out statues, models and miniatures. Paré even had his team building pyramids for the Egyptian Hall, which was partly inspired by the beloved Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Though Egypt's pyramids required the labor of about 30,000 people for each structure, Paré had to make do with a far smaller, but very resourceful, force. "Our goal was to ride the line between creating a colorful and fun temple-of-doom kind of set while also keeping the design authentic to what you would see in a museum,” he says.

Meanwhile, the team set about carving one of the film's key statues: the famed sculpture of Teddy Roosevelt mounted upon a horse and waving his sword through the air, which had to be reconfigured to match the familiar silhouette of Robin Williams. To make sure the statue would look just like the character who comes to life at night, Williams had to pose in the position – meaning the famously hyperkinetic actor had to remain unusually still -- while being wrapped in plaster bandages to make the mold. Later, the mold was filled with fiberglass and given finishing touch

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